If you’re wondering why the Pro Bowl is being played before the Super Bowl this year, relax — you’re not alone.
For just the second time in league history, the NFL has decided to play their version of the All-Star game prior to the marquee event of the season as the best from the NFC and AFC will do battle this Sunday from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
While there will be no Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers participating in this year’s Pro Bowl, there are still several big names going to the land of coconuts, pineapple and surfing. The quarterback position still remains loaded — from the AFC alone you have Philip Rivers and Philip Rivers — Tom Brady was supposed to be the third QB representing the conference but he pulled out due to an injury. Replacing him will be KC signal caller Matt Cassel, who had a breakout season with the Chiefs and, ironically enough, was the guy who replaced Brady for one season in New England when Tom Terrific tore his ACL back in 2007.
But for as deep as the AFC QB position is, the NFC is right there as well. The reclamation project of the season will start as Philadelphia’s Michael Vick gets the nod. Vick captured Philly’s starting gig back in Week 3 over Kevin Kolb and ran with it through the rest of the season, showing flashes of the dynamic talent he had prior to his incarceration and earning himself some MVP consideration in the process. Behind Vick will be Matt Ryan of Atlanta and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints — it should be noted that all three original nominees from the NFC are going to Hawaii; there will be no replacement QBs.
As far as nice stories go, there are plenty developing on the sandy beaches. Houston Texans RB Arian Foster, the 2010 NFL rushing champ, will be making his first-ever Pro Bowl appearance. Foster, an undrafted player from the University of Tennessee just two years ago, has ascended from Houston’s practice roster to become the most dynamic runner in the game.
Another great story will be that of Miami OLD Cameron Wake. Wake, a former CFL standout who rose to prominence with the British Columbia Lions, has transformed himself from a situational pass-rusher to one of the most dynamic all-purpose LBs in football. Wake finished third in the NFL — second in the AFC — with 14 sacks this season and make both Sporting New’s All-Pro team and the AP’s Second Team.